UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – No. 10/9 Penn State travels to No. 11/11 Minnesota for a pair of Big Ten Conference games this week to open the 2020-21 campaign.
FOLLOW THE ACTION
Dates: Thursday, November 19 | Friday, November 20
Place: 3M Arena at Mariucci | Minneapolis, Minn.
Time: Thu: 8:30 p.m. | Fri: 4:00 p.m.
TV: Big Ten Network
Streaming Video: Thursday | Friday
Listen: Thursday | Friday
Live Statistics: Live Stats
Game Notes: Penn State
THIS WEEK’S MATCHUP
- This weekend marks the 32nd and 33rd all-time meetings between Minnesota and Penn State with the series all tied at 15-15-1.
- Ever since a 4-3 double-overtime victory in Detroit during the 2017 Big Ten Tournament semifinals, Penn State has controlled the series with an 8-1-1 record in the last 10 games and an even better 12-2-1 record in the last 15 meetings including its first-ever sweep of Minnesota at Mariucci one year ago outscoring the Gophers 14-5 in the two game series. Penn State went 3-0-1 against the Gophers last season and has now won the season series three-straight years.
- The two teams were set to meet in the Big Ten semifinals at Pegula Ice Arena back in March prior to the postseason being canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Nittany Lions would have been making their fifth-straight tournament semifinal appearance and their sixth overall in just the seventh year of the conference marking the second most semifinal appearances is league history behind Ohio State’s seven.
- Penn State is opening Big Ten play against Minnesota for the second time in the past four seasons with the last coming during the 2017-18 season. The Nittany Lions won that opening game 3-1 before falling 6-3 in game two.
- Overall, Penn State is 5-2-0 in Big Ten Conference openers and 5-2-1 all-time in season opening games including a 4-1-0 record over the past five seasons with the lone loss coming at Clarkson the last time the Nittany Lions opened on the road to begin the 2017-18 season.
- The Gophers were picked to finish first by the Big Ten coaches in the preseason poll and are ranked 11th in both national polls to open the season.
- Minnesota returns nine of its top 10 scorers from last season including each of the top-six led by leading scorer and former Big Ten Freshman of the Year, Sammy Walker who had 30 points on 11 goals and 19 assists last season. Walker’s 30 points were good for ninth in the conference.
- Scott Reedy led all Gophers last season with 15 goals, a mark tied for fourth in the Big Ten. Sampo Ranta added 12 goals and 20 points for the Gophers while Brannon McManus had nine goals and 18 assists for 27 points.
- The Gophers had four players land on preseason All-Conference teams led by Walker on the first team while McManus and Jackson LaCombe earned second team recognition and Ben Meyers was an honorable mention.
- Between the pipes, Jack LaFontaine returns for Minnesota. He started nine-straight contests to end the 2019-20 season posting a 3-3-3 record over that stretch with a .941 save percentage and a 1.96 goals against average. Overall LaFontaine raised his save percentage to .919 and dropped his goals against to 2.55. Including his time with Michigan, LaFontaine is 0-3-1 all-time against Penn State in five appearances with a .922 save percentage and a 4.09 goals against average. His performances of 54 saves (2/21/2020) and 53 saves (12/2/2016) against Penn State are the top-two performances of his career to date.
- The Gophers struggled on the power-play last season ranking last in the Big Ten and 43rd nationally with just 19 goals in 117 chances (16.2 percent) while the PK was slightly better at 82 percent (82-for-100) to rank tied for 24th nationally and third in the Big Ten.
- Minnesota was arguably one of the hottest teams in the country at the end of last season having gone 11-5-3 following Christmas break.
FIRST TIME FOR EVERYTHING
- For the first time in program history, Penn State secured the Big Ten regular-season championship in 2019-20 and No. 1 overall seed entering the conference tournament. Penn State’s 12 victories and 41 points in conference play last season were both program highs.
LONG TIME COMING
- Penn State and Minnesota last met 271 days ago on February 22 in what proved to be the final game of the 2019-20 season for the Nittany Lions. Both teams were set for a rematch in the Big Ten semifinals 21 days later prior to the cancellation of the postseason due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- This series will make it four-straight games for Penn State against Minnesota marking the second time in program history the Nittany Lions have battled the Gophers in four consecutive games. It last happened during the 2017-18 season when Penn State defeated Minnesota in all four contests, ultimately punching its second-straight trip to the NCAA Tournament in the process.
- Penn State played extremely well on the road last season posting a 9-5-1 record, the best mark in the Big Ten and the most road wins in a single-season in program history. The Nittany Lions averaged a league best 3.33 goals per game on the road, a mark good for eighth in the nation.
CHANGING OF THE GUARD
- Four years ago Peyton Jones stepped between the pipes for the Nittany Lions earning the starting goaltender position that he never relinquished. After setting nearly every Penn State goaltender record, Jones graduated in May and inked a two-year AHL contract with the Colorado Eagles.
- Jones’ absence this season opens the door for junior Oskar Autio. Autio made four starts a season ago posting a 2-1-1 record with a .930 save percentage and a 1.87 goals-against average.
- Freshman Liam Souliere will also fight for time between the pipes this season. Souliere was injured to begin his 2019-20 season in the BCHL, but posted fantastic numbers the year prior in the CCHL with the Brockville Bravesearning the league’s Goaltender of the Year award with a 26-8-0 record, a 2.13 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage.
BREAK THE WALL DOWN
- While sophomore Kevin Wall had only seven points on a pair of goals and five assists in 26 games last season he scored one of Penn State’s biggest goals of the season 271 days ago against Minnesota as just 31 seconds after the Nittany Lions tied the contest midway through the third period, Wall ripped home the eventual game-winner from the slot.
- The sophomore was playing his best hockey late in the year finally finding his game after having played with 12 different line mates throughout the season.
- Both of his goals in 2019-20 and four of his points (2G, 2A) came against the Gophers in four games while he had only three points in 22 games against teams not named Minnesota.
O CAPTAIN! MY CAPTAIN!
- Senior Alex Limoges was named Penn State’s 2020-21 captain and earned his second-straight preseason First-Team All-B1G nod after earning honorable mention accolades at the conclusion of the 2019-20 season.
- Limoges leads all active Big Ten players in points with 103 for his career to rank fifth nationally. His 41 career goals are the second-most among active players in the Big Ten entering the season also good for fifth nationally.
- Limoges became the eighth Nittany Lion in program history to reach the 100-point mark for his career last season and is currently tied for seventh on the Penn State all-time points list just 37 shy of Nate Sucese ’20. The senior’s 41 goals are the eighth most all-time at Penn State.
HOCKEY VALLEY FIVE-0
- Penn State’s magic number is five, the Nittany Lions were 11-0-0 last year when scoring at least five goals and 77-1-2 all-time when scoring five or more goals with the lone loss coming during the 2018-19 season against Wisconsin at the Kohl Center in an 8-5 defeat.
- In 2019-20 the Nittany Lions were also 16-1-3 when scoring first and a perfect 15-0-2 when leading entering the third period.
WELL, THAT’S A PLUS
- In just two seasons in Hockey Valley junior alternate captain Paul DeNaples is a plus-49 in 73 career games ranking second all-time at Penn State behind the plus-50 of Andrew Sturtz ’20.
- DeNaples finished second in the Big Ten last season with a plus-18 rating only behind his defensive partner Cole Hults who was plus-23. As a freshman, DeNaples led the entire nation with a plus-31 rating.
- DeNaples has had just 12 games with a negative plus-minus out of his 73 career games played. In those games, Penn State is just 4-7-1 including a 1-3-1 record last season.
ETCHED INTO THE RECORD BOOKS
- Penn State will look a little different when they hit the ice this season after graduating the largest senior class in program history and arguably one of the most decorated throughout the nation as well as having two juniors leave early after signing entry-level NHL contracts.
- The 2020 senior class accounted for 85 victories over their four years, just one shy of the most-ever by a single class, a distinction held by the class of 2019 with 86 wins.
- The group consisted of four of the top-10 scorers in program history led by Penn State’s all-time leading scorer, Nate Sucese with 140 points and followed by Brandon Biro (116), Denis Smirnov (115) and Liam Folkes (103) in fourth, fifth and seventh, respectively. The group also featured Peyton Jones, the most decorated goalie in program history who holds nearly every single goaltending record Penn State.
- The 2020 senior class played in a total 1,142 games scoring 634 points on 258 goals and 376 assists and had four 100-point scorers.
- The Nittany Lions are also without the services of Evan Barratt and Cole Hults after the pair inked entry-level NHL contracts with the Chicago Blackhawks and the Los Angeles Kings back in April.
- Barratt ranked ninth on the all-time points list and tenth on the goals list at Penn State with 95 and 39, respectively, while Hults held nearly every single record for defensemen at Penn State and led the entire Big Ten with a plus-23 rating last season.
THE GREAT GADOWSKY
- Head Coach Guy Gadowsky was named a finalist for Big Ten Coach of the Year last season after leading the Nittany Lions to their first-ever B1G regular-season title. The Bench Boss secured the seventh 20-win season of his collegiate coaching career and his fourth with the Nittany Lions with a 3-2 victory over Minnesota to close out the regular season.
- The 2014-15 Big Ten Coach of the Year registered his 300th career victory earlier this year and currently ranks tied for 78th all-time throughout all divisions with 318 victories. Among Division I coaches all-time, Gadowsky ranks 45th with his 318 wins and is currently 13th among active NCAA Division I coaches.
- Penn State makes the quick trip to Madison for a pair of games against the Badgers on Monday and Tuesday.
For more information on the 2020-21 season presented by the Penn State Bookstore: the Official Bookstore of Penn State Athletics, visit the men’s hockey page at GoPSUsports.com or call 1-800-NITTANY Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.